Family separation has never really ended, because children kidnapped from the arms of asylum seekers at the southern border continue to remain in U.S. custody, in blatant violation of a federal judge’s order. Family separation has also never really ended because immigration officials have been exploiting that same judge’s ruling to again separate more families, a ProPublica investigation has found.
When Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the administration to return thousands of children in U.S. custody back to their parents, he “exempted cases in which the safety of the child was at risk, and crucially, imposed no standards or oversight over those decisions.” Officials have now torn apart at least 16 families through this exemption, in some cases refusing to provide any evidence to justify the separation. In one such case, officials have accused a dad who fled gang violence of being a gang member himself.
“When Julio arrived at the border with his son, he had a letter from a lawyer in El Salvador explaining the pair’s history of being targeted and harassed by gangs. Julio also had with him sworn statements from his former employer vouching for his character and stating he was not involved in any gang activity.”
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) “spokeswoman Corry Schiermeyer declined to provide the evidence the agency had to support the allegation,” the investigation found, “saying only that it was ‘law enforcement sensitive.’ Nor would she say why CBP believed Julio was a danger to his child.” But it’s not like federal immigration agents have made up shit to accuse immigrants of being gang members, and then been reprimanded by the courts for doing so.
Immigration officials, ProPublica continues, have also kept the separations secret from the groups contracted to detain migrant children. In Julio’s case, it appeared a contractor thought his son, Brayan, had been an unaccompanied minor. “Jodi Ziesemer, a supervising attorney at Catholic Charities, had no idea that Brayan had been separated from his father. The chaos, she said, felt disturbingly like zero tolerance all over again.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which successfully sued over family separation, appears to be set for court if the Trump administration is resuming kidnapping at the southern border yet again. “If the government is still secretly separating children,” said attorney Lee Gelernt, “and is doing so based on flimsy excuses, that would be patently unconstitutional and we will be back in court.”